Vote on Campus Program
Over the years, Elections Canada has explored a variety of initiatives to help increase access to voting for certain target groups, including youth electors. Youth have historically had rates of electoral participation below the average. In various surveys and evaluations, they have cited a range of reasons for not voting. The most frequently cited are issues related to life circumstances (such as being too busy or living away from home) and barriers to accessing the vote (such as a lack of awareness of the voting process, or transportation issues).
The 2015 Pilot Project
During the last general election, to help increase access to voting for youth, Elections Canada launched a pilot project to open temporary voting offices in locations regularly frequented by youth. The aim was to offer additional options for registering and voting in locations that may be more convenient to these electors. Offices were opened in 39 post-secondary campuses across the country. Those visiting the offices were able to register and vote by special ballot on site, or simply update their information on the list of electors. The offices were open over four consecutive days, for up to 10 hours per day. While the initiative primarily targeted youth, any eligible voter who wished to vote at these offices could do so. Over 70,000 electors cast their vote through this initiative.
This turnout accounted for about 9% of the total targeted population. Those who completed an exit survey on their experience in the 42nd GE indicated that the offices provided a more convenient location to vote. A quarter of respondents noted that they would not have voted, or were not sure if they would have voted, had these offices not been available.
The 2019 General Election
In light of the pilot project's success, and in response to the growing demand for such services, the Vote on Campus pilot has now become a program. In addition, Elections Canada is expanding its scope by opening Vote on Campus offices in a greater number of post-secondary institutions and by increasing the hours and days of operation.
As such, Vote on Campus has expanded its scope to 121 offices at 109 post-secondary campuses across 86 electoral districts (EDs). Offices will be open for five consecutive days (October 5th-9th), for up to 12 hours per day. Operating hours may vary slightly from one campus to another.
The list of post-secondary institutions selected was created based on the following:
- Post-secondary institutions selected for the 42nd GE pilot project.
- Post-secondary institutions with more than 4,000 students who are eligible to vote.
- Institutions recognized for serving Indigenous students.
- Institutions recognized as a community hub and that can help maintain a balance between provincial and territorial distribution.
Voting at these campus offices is done by special ballot. Voting by special ballot is a convenient option for all electors who may be unable to vote at their advance polling station, or at their polling station on polling day. Electors who are outside of their riding during the election period, like students living on campus away from home, are among those who may benefit from voting by special ballot, whether by mail or at a Vote on Campus location.
After the election, an evaluation will take place to assess the service offering. Other types of locations may also be explored with the aim of further improving access to voting for those who face barriers.